How deep tech startups around the world are transforming the energy sector
Trends & lessons from our global startup competition
Recent profound changes in the way that energy is produced, stored and distributed as well as mixed signals on our path to decarbonizing the global energy system make it difficult to predict where exactly we will be getting our energy from in the near future. But a quick look at the startups from this sector in the Hello Tomorrow Top 500 provides a preview of what the energy future could look like.
In fact, despite uncertainty around the commitment to the Paris Accords and the prospect of “Brexit”, there is a strong consensus within the community that the shift to a low-carbon economy is necessary and inevitable. In addition to that, large investments by countries (notably China, India, USA and Germany) in renewable energy generation and distribution have dramatically lowered costs and hence barriers to enter the sector. As a result, we are seeing a boom in the number of startups in the energy sector: developing new systems to produce renewable energy, optimizing current solutions, increasing the efficiency and resilience of energy storage systems and managing the distribution of energy to the consumer generated from increasingly distributed sources.
More precisely, there is a niche group of startups working on hydropower generation, which includes 5 interesting projects from Georgia, Israel, France, Turkey and the US. These projects propose new technologies for wave energy conversion and hydrokinetic power generation that are cheap, easy to install and reliable. Although over 200 startups around the world might be working on these or related technologies, the recent success of a startup like Eco Wave, who will be a speaker at our Global Summit in October in Paris, demonstrated that rapid gains in efficiency and cost-effectiveness are possible. Having installed large-scale prototypes of floaters attached to coastal infrastructures in different regions of the world they successfully managed to harvest wave power and convert it into electricity.
Hydropower startups from the Hello Tomorrow Challenge: Small and Smart Tidal Power by Instream Energy Systems, Eco Wave Power, Capta Hydro, Whirlpool technology for energy transition — Trailing Hydro Power Tower., HeliosAltas
A vast array of startups originating predominantly from the US, the UK and Germany are also working towards the optimization of current renewable technologies either by offering technological improvements (perovskite solar cells and new blade designs for wind turbines), new services that are linked to manufacturing or maintenance (like drones solutions to clean solar panels) or ad-hoc services for optimizing the use of these systems (production forecast from solar panels either for industrial or home use).
As storage is a critical component to the widespread implementation of most renewable technologies, many startups, most of whom come from the world’s top universities, and again mostly from the US, are working on new battery technologies that are either improvements of the currently dominating lithium-ion batteries (all-solid-state lithium-ion batteries) or other types of battery systems (graphene-based, lithium-air, zinc-ion). Startups not only target the batteries themselves but also how these batteries are used and connected to the grid by selling cloud-services that allow you to optimize the use of these batteries.
Finally, there is still a huge selection of startups working on the distribution of energy to the consumer. Most of these solutions try to give more control to the consumer by monitoring energy consumption, offering pay-as-you-go services or blockchain systems to trade energy within a local community.
Distribution startups: Off-grid smart metering for local energy managment, Ecoisme, OffGridBox
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